Still deep in the tunnel; our Covid strategy must stay
With Covid vaccines now being administered on Guam, we can finally
we can finally see that speck of light at the end of the tunnel. But make no mistake, we are still deep in the tunnel. Lives will still be lost before we are able to walk through the exit and breathe air without fearing that it might be laced with coronavirus.
The COVID death toll for the United States has now surpassed the 300,000 mark. According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the death toll is projected to surpass 500,000 by the first of April. With the rapid rollout of vaccines, the projection only drops to 483,000 deaths. This means our country will still see over 180,000 additional deaths from the first week of vaccinations through the end of winter. And if we let our guard down and start easing mitigations too rapidly, we can expect to see over 600,000 deaths.
What this tells us is that vaccines are a long-term prevention strategy. However, our right-now prevention strategy must not change. This is so critical it is worth listing them all:
· The 4Ws, which are:
o Wear your masks
o Watch your distance
o Wash your hands
o Willpower to do it all 100 percent of the time when around anyone you do not live with.
· Robust Testing, including serial testing for groups at highest risk of spreading the virus and/or having complications from it.
· Proper Isolation of active cases.
· Sufficient Tracing of most immediate contacts.
· Least restrictive, but still effective Quarantine.
· Strict Enforcement, which now include monetary penalties.
Rest assured that there are no discussions of making the vaccine mandatory. However, how long this tunnel ends up being is in the hands of each and every one of you, as you decide whether or not to be vaccinated. And if so, how soon you decide to get vaccinated after you become eligible.
Experts state that we need 70 percent to 80 percent of the community to obtain long lasting immunity to the coronavirus before it can hopefully be eradicated, or, at the very least, become an endangered species that no longer threatens our own species. For Guam, this ultimately means we need well over 125,000 people vaccinated.
During this first phase of vaccinations, it will predominantly be healthcare workers and first responders who will be offered the vaccine. A recent local survey of these groups conducted this past week showed that only 55 percent said they definitely or probably will get the vaccine. Some have legitimate health reasons to not yet get the vaccine, but most have an exaggerated view of the risks, or are simply skeptics.
We ask everyone to please press the reset button on whatever it is that makes them hesitant and learn more from credible sources. The facts are clear about the known efficacy and any safety concerns of both the Pfizer vaccine and the very similar one by Moderna.
From the design to testing, the data and recommendations for a vaccine has never been more carefully analyzed and scrutinized by objective career scientists. Efficacy is on par with vaccines for measles and polio. Safety was also found to be similar to these and other viral vaccines.
Nothing in life is 100 percent safe, not even getting out of bed in the morning, or staying in bed for that matter. But all our decisions must be grounded in weighing potential benefits over risks.
The director of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Francis Collins recently stated, “When you look back a year from now and you ask yourself, ‘did I do the right thing?’ I hope you can say, ‘yes, because I looked at the evidence.’”
This decision is yours to make. But be reminded that there is also a risk of refusing the vaccine. This risk affects you, your family, and, ultimately, the entire community. Lives literally depend on you making the best-informed decision possible.
We personally have made the decision to get this vaccine and have already done so the first day it became available to us. Additionally, we had the honor of receiving it by none other than the Nurse-in-Chief of Guam, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
For more information on the vaccine please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/8-things.html
Col. Michael W. Cruz is the Guam state surgeon and chief medical advisor to the Governor of Guam; Dr. Felix T. Cabrera is a member of the Governor’s Physician Advisory Group.